Leaving Care and Transition

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

These procedures apply to young people who are or have been in care and are entitled to support after their 16th birthday.

There are three categories of those leaving care all of whom are entitled to support after their 16th birthday. The categories are Eligible, Relevant, and Former Relevant.

These procedures also refer to Qualifying Young People who may receive support, advice and assistance after their 16th birthday.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 3: Planning Transition to Adulthood for Care Leavers (revised January 2015)

Care Leavers Charter

Extending Personal Adviser Support to All Care Leavers to Age 25: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018)

Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018)

Local Offer Guidance: Guidance for Local Authorities

RELATED LOCAL GUIDANCE

See: Rotherham's Local Offer

RELATED CHAPTER

Staying Put Policy

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2019 to include local processes.

1. Introduction

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduces 3 new provisions:

  1. A duty on local authorities which requires them to offer Personal Adviser support to all care leavers towards whom the local authority had duties under section 23C of the Children Act 1989, up to age 25 - irrespective of whether they are engaged in education or training. This includes care leavers who return to the local authority at any point after the age of 21 up to age 25 and request such support. (Under previous legislation, local authorities were required to only provide care leavers with support from a Personal Adviser until they reached age 21, with that support continuing up to age 25 if a care leaver was engaged in education or training. However, this support was not available to care leavers aged over 21 who were not in education, training or employment);
  2. A duty on local authorities to consult on and then publish their 'local offer' for care leavers, which sets out both care leavers' legal entitlements and the additional discretionary support that the local authority provides; and
  3. A duty on local authorities which requires them to have regard to seven 'corporate parenting principles', that will guide the way in which the local authority provides its services to children in care and care leavers.

These are specific requirements in addition to the existing provisions relating to support for care leavers. The Children and Social Work Act does not extend all care leaver support to age 25.

The duty that extends Personal Adviser support (where requested) to all care leavers means that the local authority continues to exercise functions in respect of care leavers to age 25 and should therefore apply the corporate parenting principles when exercising those functions.

The ultimate aim of leaving care services is to support care leavers so that they can live successful independent lives. Each care leaver will reach that point at a different age and there should be no assumption that the duty means that all care leavers will require statutory support until the age of 25.

The duty therefore means that local authorities do not necessarily need to provide the same level of support to care leavers aged 21 to 25 as it does for those aged 18-20. The duty does however enable local authorities to respond positively to requests for support from care leavers aged 21-25 who may be continuing to struggle with the transition to independence and adult life.

2. Definitions

Normally the definitions relating to Keywords are found by accessing the Keywords Glossary, but a number of the terms used in this procedure are specific to it; therefore they have also been summarised below:

 

Eligible Young People

They are aged 16 or 17, have been Looked After for a period or periods totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and ending at least one day after their 16th birthday, and are still in care. (This total does not include a series of pre-planned short-term placements of up to four weeks where the child has returned to the parent). There is a duty to support these young people up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.

The statutory definition and requirements to undertake a needs assessment, prepare a Pathway Plan, keep the Pathway Plan under review and appoint a Personal Adviser are covered by Regulations 42, 43 and 44 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.

 

Relevant Young People

They are aged 16 or 17 and are no longer Looked After, having previously been in the category of Eligible Young Person when in care (that is, they have been Looked After for a period, or periods, totalling at least 13 weeks starting after their 14th birthday and ending at least one day after their 16th birthday). However, if after leaving care, a young person returns home for a period of 6 months or more to be cared for by a parent and the return home has been formally agreed as successful through the review of the pathway plan, they will no longer be a "Relevant Young Person".

A young person is also "Relevant" if, having been in care for three months or more, he or she is then detained after their 16th birthday either in a hospital, remand centre, young offenders' institution or secure training centre. There is a duty to support Relevant Young People up to the age of 18, wherever they are living.

The statutory definition and requirements to stay in touch with the young person, undertake a needs assessment (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible'), prepare and keep the Pathway Plan under review, appoint a Personal Adviser (unless this was done when the young person was 'Eligible') and provide accommodation and assistance to meet their needs in relation to education, training or employment are covered by Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.

 

A Young Person Discharged from Being Looked After

Any decision to cease looking after a child aged 16 or 17 who is Looked After other than by virtue of a Care Order, must be approved by the Director of Children's Services. The Director must be satisfied that:

  • The child's wishes and feelings have been ascertained and given due consideration;
  • The child's Independent Reviewing Officer has been consulted;
  • The child's relatives have been consulted, where appropriate.
 

Former Relevant Young People

They are aged 18 or above and have left care having been previously either "Eligible", "Relevant" or both. There is a duty to consider the need to support these young people wherever they are living.

The statutory definition and requirements to stay in touch with the young person, keep the Pathway Plan under review, continue the appointment of a Personal Adviser and provide financial assistance near where the young person is employed or seeking employment/to enable the young person to pursue education or training are covered by Regulations 4 to 9 of the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010.

If the Former Relevant child pursues higher education in accordance with their Care Plan, there is a duty to pay a higher education bursary.

To the extent that the Former Relevant child's welfare requires it, 'other assistance' must be provided which may be in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.

These duties continue until the former relevant child reaches 21 or, where the child's pathway plan sets out a programme of education or training which extends beyond their 21st birthday, they continue for so long as the child pursues that programme.

 

Former Relevant Children Pursuing Further Education or Training

Specific duties are placed upon the local authority in respect of Former Relevant children who inform the local authority that they are pursuing, or intend to pursue, a programme of education or training. The local authority must:

  • Carry out an assessment of the needs of the Former Relevant child with a view to determining what assistance (if any) it would be appropriate for the local authority to provide;
  • Prepare a pathway plan;
  • To the extent that the Former Relevant child's educational or training needs require it, provide financial assistance by:
    • Contributing to living expenses; or
    • Making a grant to meet expenses connected with the education and training.

These duties continue up to the Former Relevant child's 25th birthday.

In each case where a care leaver requests this support, the Local Authority will need to assess the appropriateness of the course and how it will help the young person to achieve his or her ambitions. The extent of the practical and financial assistance provided will reflect the type of course, whether full - or part-time, and the young person's existing income.

  Also see: Pathways to Leaving Care Entitlements.
 

Access to Personal Advisor to 25

The Children and Social Act 2017 amended existing guidance as to the duty afforded to young people aged 21 to 25 who are defined as Former Relevant Care Leavers. The purpose of this policy is to describe RMBC Leaving Care Service approach to the new duty, role and function of PA support and the offer to young people.

The duty has been extended in response to recognising that young people may require ongoing advice and guidance to secure them in a positive transition.

This is a retrospective offer and is intended to capture those young people defined as Former Relevant who have been closed to service upon reaching 21 and who are not yet 25.

A young person can be regarded as a 'qualifying young person' under the terms of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 when:

  1. Aged at least 16 but is under 21;
  2. With respect to whom a special guardianship order is in force (or was in force when they reached 18) and was looked after immediately before the making of that order; or
  3. At any time after reaching the age of 16 but while he was still a child was, but is no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered.

Qualifying young people tend to be those young people who have spent a period of time in the LA and return home to the person with Parental Responsibility for at least 6 months prior to their 18th birthday. (In terms of definition and therefore entitlement this would see the young person moving from relevant status to qualifying).

Qualifying young people can also be young people who have spent less time in care after their 16th birthday and who have returned home.

Or the young person is made subject to a special guardianship order.

In each circumstance it is necessary to complete an assessment to determine need and where this need can best be met.

 

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) and Victims of Trafficking

Under the Care Leavers (England) Regulations 2010, a care leaver's needs in relation to their status as a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child must be considered when the local authority is preparing an assessment of needs and to require that, where a child is a victim of trafficking or an unaccompanied asylum seeking child the local authority must consider whether their related needs are being met when reviewing the child's pathway plan.

3. Expectations and Corporate Parenting

3.1 Expectations

The aim of the Leaving Care Services is to support care leavers so that they can live successful independent lives. Each care leaver will reach that point at a different age and there should be no assumption that all care leavers will require statutory support until up to age 25.

Although each young person will be different, it would be expected that support for care leavers will taper away over time, in recognition of their growing maturity and independence:

  • For care leavers aged 16 and 17, the local authority is under an absolute duty to accommodate them, which does not apply once the young person reaches age 18;
  • For care leavers aged 18 and up to 21, there is a proactive duty on the local authority to keep in touch with care leavers (section 23C(2) of the Children Act 1989 Act), which does not apply to care leavers aged 21 or over, irrespective of whether those young people are already entitled to support because they are in education or training, or those who are covered by the new duty. Although there is no requirement to proactively keep in touch with all young people aged over 21 up to age 25 throughout the year, the duty (under the Children and Social Work Act 2017) requires local authorities to make care leavers aware that they can continue to request Personal Adviser support as soon as possible after they turn 21; and on at least an annual basis thereafter. This applies regardless of whether a care leaver may have earlier declined the offer of Personal Adviser support. This requirement recognises that care leavers' circumstances may change and confirms that all care leavers are entitled to Personal Adviser support at any time up to age 25. Sending a birthday card to care leavers, for example, presents an ideal opportunity to remind the young person of their entitlement to Personal Adviser support if they need it, through to age 25;
  • For care leavers aged 21 or over, the duties introduced through the Children and Social Work Act 2017 - to assess care leavers' needs, and develop and keep under review a Pathway Plan - apply only where the young person requests support.

3.2 Corporate Parenting Principles

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 set out seven principles for Corporate Parenting:

  • To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and well-being, of those children and young people;
  • To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
  • To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
  • To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
  • To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
  • For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
  • To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.

See Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018).

4. Local Offer

All local authorities must publish up-to-date information about the services it offers for care leavers and other services which may assist care leavers in, or preparing for, adulthood and independent living. The local offer should cover health and well-being; relationships; education and training; employment; accommodation; participation in society. This information should also include how relevant services that can be accessed by its partner agencies.

See: Rotherham's Local Offer.

5. Leaving Care Assessment of Need

All young people - Eligible, Relevant or Former Relevant - must receive a multi-agency assessment of their needs as to the advice, assistance and support they will need when leaving care.

The young person's social worker will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment when the young person is aged 16 or 17 years of age.

The young person's personal advisor will be responsible for coordinating the Needs Assessment when the young person is aged 18 to 21(25) years of age.

This assessment should be completed no more than 3 months after the young person's 16th birthday or after the young person becomes Eligible or Relevant if this is later. The timetable must take account of any forthcoming exams and avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them.

The young person's Care Plan together with information from the most recent Assessment will form the basis of the Needs Assessment.

The young person's allocated worker will be responsible for recording the assessment information and conclusions as well as the outcome of any meetings held. The young person must be invited to any meetings held in connection with the assessment.

The Needs Assessment should take account of the views of the following:

  1. The young person;
  2. The parents;
  3. The current carer;
  4. The school/college and the education service;
  5. Any Independent Visitor;
  6. Any person providing health care or treatment for the young person;
  7. The Personal Adviser;
  8. Any other relevant person including, in the case of a young person with special needs, a representative from Adult Services.

Once the young person turns 18 their consent will be required before any other person/agency can be approached in the development of any future needs assessment/ pathway plan.

A decision not to include significant people must be recorded in the young person's file.

Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

Where the young person refuses to engage in the assessment process, this should be recorded, together with any actions taken to ascertain the young person's views.

All parties, including the allocated worker's manager, should sign the completed Needs Assessment Record. The young person should be provided with a copy in a format that is accessible to him or her within 2 weeks. The allocated worker is responsible for ensuring that the outcome of the assessment is explained to the young person.

Where the young person is looked after and under 18 the Needs Assessment will inform the development of a Pathway Plan which will be based on and include the young person's Care Plan.

Where the young person continues to be Looked After, the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record should describe what arrangements have been made within the placement to support the Pathway Plan.

When carrying out an assessment of needs, the local authority must determine whether it would be appropriate to provide advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. Where they determine that it would be appropriate, and where the child and the local authority foster parent wish to make a Staying Put arrangement, then the local authority must provide such advice, assistance and support to facilitate a Staying Put arrangement. For further information see the Staying Put Procedure.

5.1 Needs Assessment for those aged 21 and up to 25

The government guidance Extending Personal Adviser Support to All Care Leavers to Age 25: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (February 2018) highlights that at this stage of their lives young adults needs will vary considerably. Some may need considerable continuing support with transition, whilst others will not take up the offer for continuing support. Therefore there should be a proportionate response, with some benefitting from a continued and full assessment of needs, whilst others who seek help for specific issues have a more focussed assessment which responds to their particular need and level of requested help (see Section 6.1, Pathway Planning for those Aged 21 and up to 25).

6. Pathway Planning

All young people will have a Pathway Plan in place within 3 months of becoming Eligible and, wherever possible, a Pathway Plan will be in place by the young person's 16th birthday.

When the young person is under 18 the Pathway Plan will be based on and include a young person's Care Plan and any Personal Education Plan or Careers advice service will inform and complement the Pathway Plan.

Each young person will be central to drawing up their own Pathway Plan setting the goals and identifying how the local authority will help meet them, including any services being provided in respect of the young person's disability or needs arising from being in custody or as a result of entering the country as an unaccompanied asylum seeker. It should be written in a way that meets the needs of the young person, capturing their aspirations and key messages. Young people with particular language or communication needs should be provided throughout the process with appropriate interpretation, translation or advocacy support.

The Pathway Plan must clearly identify the roles of each person who has a part to play in supporting the care leaver.

The Pathway Plan should also include:

  • The plan for the young person's continuing education or training when they cease to be looked after - where the young person is no longer of statutory school age, the Pathway Plan may need to incorporate the goals and actions that were previously included in the PEP as well as the goals and aspirations of the young person;
  • How Rotherham's Leaving Care Service will assist the young person in obtaining employment or other purposeful activity or occupation, taking into account their aspirations, skills and educational potential to improve their chance of employability;
  • The financial support to be provided to enable the young person to meet accommodation and maintenance costs; taking into account their financial capabilities and money-management capacity, along with strategies to develop skills in this area;
  • The nature and level of support to be provided, and by whom, to the young person;
  • Details of the accommodation the young person is to occupy (including an assessment of its suitability in the light of the young person's needs, recording the considerations taken into account in assessing that suitability);
  • Details of the arrangements made by the Rotherham's Leaving Care Service to meet the young person's needs in relation to his or her identity, with particular regard to their religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background.

The Pathway Plan must address in particular:

  • The young person's health and development building on the information included in the young person's Health Care Plan;
  • Education, training and employment. The Personal Education Plan (PEP) should continue to be maintained while the young person continues to receive full or part-time education. Information within the PEP will feed directly into the Pathway Plan. where the young person is an eligible young person. Pathway Plans must have an explicit focus on career planning, taking into account the young person's aspirations, skills, and educational potential;
  • The pathway plan will consider how the young person can maintain relationships with their parents, wider family including siblings and friends and the capacity of this network to encourage the young person and enable them to make a positive transition to adulthood;
  • The young person's financial capabilities and money management capacity, along with strategies to develop the young person's skills in this area.

The Pathway Plan must identify contingency arrangements that will come into effect to support the young person if, for whatever reason, the planned arrangements are not realised.

The local authority should have a flexible approach to supporting young people.

N.B. It should be borne in mind that it has a duty to accept young people aged 16 and 17 years back in to care if a young person's decision to move into semi-independent accommodation, leave care or decline leaving care services is then identified as premature.

Subject to the consent of the young person a Financial Summary should be attached to the Plan, at the latest from the point where the young person leaves care.

Where a transfer from Children's to Adult Services will be required, the Plan should specify who has responsibility for giving notice to Adult Services and liaising with them to ensure a smooth transition - see: Transfer of Cases.

The manager of the allocated worker will quality assure, approve and sign the pathway plan.

On completion and approval of the Pathway Plan, all parties involved including the young person should sign it.

The young person will be provided with a copy of the most up to date Pathway Plan and the contents must be explained.

Where agencies are contributing to the delivery of an individual young person's Pathway Plan they should be provided with a copy of the relevant extract from the Plan relating to their contribution.

Information from the Pathway Plan should not be shared with other agencies or individuals without the young person's consent.

6.1 Pathway Planning for those Aged 21 and up to 25

The Children and Social Act 2017 amended existing guidance as to the duty afforded to young people aged 21 to 25 who are defined as Former Relevant Care Leavers. The purpose of this policy is to describe RMBC Leaving Care Service approach to the new duty, role and function of PA support and the offer to young people.

The duty has been extended in response to recognising that young people may require ongoing advice and guidance to secure them in a positive transition.

This document will also outline how the service will record its activity.

This policy applies to:

Young people defined as Former Relevant under the Children (Leaving Care) Act prior to turning 21.

This is a retrospective offer and is intended to capture those young people defined as Former Relevant who have been closed to service upon reaching 21 and who are not yet 25.

This policy does not apply to:

Young people defined as 'qualifying' under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.

This policy therefore will address the following areas:

Activity for young people who are not yet 25 but to whom services and support from Leaving Care are closed.

Activity for young people who are shortly due to turn 21.

Activity for young people who become eligible for Leaving Care Service.

Practice Guidance

Activity for young people who are not yet 25 but to whom services are closed

RMBC Leaving Care Service will write to all young people aged 21 to 25 at least annually to explain and remind them of the duty and how they can return to the service at any time during this period and seek support (for introductory letter to this duty and reminder letter, see Appendix 1: Letter informing Young Person of their right to return to service (Post 21) and Appendix 2: Letter service sends out to remind Young People of the offer (Post 21)).

RMBC will also make sure the offer to young people over the age of 21 is captured and published in the Local Offer as well as advertised in various public spaces such as the main Riverside House Council Offices and DWP.

There are 2 pathways back into service. These are drop in/ duty function or full service with allocated PA.

Drop in/Duty function

Young people will be reminded they can drop in to catch up with the team or for advice.

This can happen in a number of ways.

The young person may merely drop in to have a chat or to catch up with the team. This can be covered by duty/reception at Chatham.

A young person may also return experiencing some distress that requires immediate attention. This would be covered on duty. If this is a time limited crisis that can be dealt with swiftly then this can be completed via duty.

This would be recorded on LCS as a duty contact.

If however it becomes clear that the issue will take a few days/interactions to address, PAs to discuss with manager as to whether this requires assessment. Examples of these situations may see difficulties with appointments with benefits/housing which could lead or have led to eviction/ sanction and the young person is seeking support to challenge.

Dependent on discussion with manager these too can be classified as duty contacts if it is anticipated there will be no further action from supporting the young person in this immediate crisis.

If a duty worker picks up a young person and the activity is expected to run into a second or third day then it may be appropriate that the duty worker sees this through. This will be dependent on other pressures within their caseload and is subject to agreement from their manager. If this is not possible duty worker will be expected to write up case note before leaving work that evening with clear actions as to what has been achieved and what actions are outstanding for the next day.

This will support duty worker carrying the work forward into the next day.

Flexibility of Offer

In all instances the offer post 21 is flexible and can begin, end and then reopened again. Young people may and can visit, seek time limited support and then end their involvement for a period of time.

In each instance this activity must be recorded.

However it is important to remember that if the young person continues to revisit the service in a state of crisis over a period of weeks but on an intermittent basis it may be necessary to have discussions with the young person about the perceived chaos and worries the service has for that young person and seek permission that they consent to an assessment and more focussed support.

This will be subject to the young person consenting to involvement.

Offering an assessment to full service

Should young people require more support they can ask, or we can offer an assessment. This will be completed using the Pathway Plan template on LCS.

The Personal Advisor will only complete the sections relevant to the young person's presenting need and worries. There is no requirement to complete a full pathway plan assessment.

The result of this assessment will be shared with a team manager and will determine whether the young person will require a pathway plan to address the areas of concern.

Should it be agreed that the young person is in need of additional, more detailed support the personal advisor with the young person will build a pathway plan.

The Personal Advisor with the young person will agree what can realistically be done to support the young person.

The options are:

  • Signposting to services;
  • Advocating to support access to services;
  • Offering regular visits to support the emotional well being of the young person if they are experiencing a period of stress;
  • Supporting access to the Journey and the opportunities on offer.

This plan will need to be agreed by the Team Manager.

Frequency of review of the plan can be determined in this planning process but should be reviewed at a minimum of 6 months.

The level, type and purpose of contact between the Personal Advisor, service and young person can be agreed within the plan itself.

Aspects to remember

Post 21 the expectation is that the offer of support is time limited, focussed and where the goal for the personal advisor and the young person is that the young person can be closed. It does not follow that once reopened the young person will remain open to their 25th birthday.

Post 21 there is no additional financial support or extension to entitlements other than those to young people accessing HE where their programme of study began before closure.

Activity for young people who are shortly due to turn 21

The Leaving Care Service in Rotherham will continue to encourage young people to keep in touch with the service so they can drop in, update the team about their lives and to share good times and bad times with them even after they turn 21.

However Personal Advisors are reminded that the plan for all young people continues to be to close young people at 21. The extension of the duty is for those young people who continue to need support and advice and who may not be ready to close. It is also dependent on young people agreeing/choosing to remain open to service.

Should the young person seek to be closed against service advice and the young person has the capacity to make their own decisions the service is unable to keep working with the young person.

As such Personal Advisors should still be focussed on supporting young people achieve stability and security by the time they reach 21.

If it becomes clear that this is not achievable Personal Advisor to have a conversation with their manager during supervision to alert them to the likelihood that the young person will remain open to service.

The personal advisor would then have a conversation with the young person as to what they would hope post 21.

All decisions and discussions must be clearly recording on the file.

Should it be determined that the young person is to remain open there must be a clear rationale on the file as to why the young person has remained open and what the actions/purpose of this decision.

The last pathway plan prior to the young person's 21st birthday should clearly record the decision to keep the young person open, the rationale for doing so and what actions remain necessary to support the young person beyond their 21st birthday.

Aspects to remember

Post 21 the expectation is that the offer of support is time limited, focussed and where the goal for the personal advisor and the young person is that the young person can be closed. It does not follow that once reopened the young person will remain open to their 25th birthday.

Post 21 there is no additional financial support or extension to entitlements other than those to young people accessing HE where their programme of study began before closure.

Activity for young people who become eligible for Leaving Care Service

For young people who are 16 – 21, the routine of pathway plan and focus of involvement for the Leaving Care Service remains in place.

However Personal Advisors can have conversations with the young person as to what the future looks like in relation to support and access to Leaving Care Services.

Case recording and data collection

At a national level RMBC will only need to report on the numbers of young people accessing the service who are aged 21 to 25.

No reporting will be necessary on pathway plans, in touch, accommodation or EET activity over the age of 21.

However locally the service will be monitored for its activity and impact on the young people it works with. Therefore it will still be a requirement that all activity is recorded effectively and that all young people who return to service will be the subject to case supervision, pathway planning, case recording standards as any young person under the age of 21.

7. Reviews of Pathway Plans for Young People aged 16 - 21

The Pathway Plan must be reviewed at least every 6 months for care leavers up to age 21. Reviews should take place more often if requested by the young person or the Personal Adviser or where there has been a significant change in the young person's circumstances.

The purpose of the review is to check that the goals and milestones are still right and that they are being met. All levels of support should be reviewed to ensure that they are adequate and delivered according to plan.

For an Eligible Young Person, the date for the first review of the Pathway Plan will be set to coincide with the young person's next Looked After Review after the Pathway Plan has been drawn up.

For a Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will, if possible, be set at the last Looked After Review before the young person ceases to be looked after and in any case within six months of becoming a relevant young person.

For a Former Relevant Young Person, the date for the first review will take place within six months of the young person's 18th birthday.

Whilst the young person is Eligible their Independent Reviewing Officer will chair reviews or support the young person to chair.

For relevant and former relevant young people the arrangements for reviewing the plan will be subject to discussion between the allocated worker and the young person. Wherever possible and where appropriate the views and wishes of the young person will be respected.

The review immediately prior to the young person's 18th birthday, where the young person is an eligible young people, will agree how future reviews will be conducted, including whether they will involve face to face meetings, and this will be recorded by the IRO.

In all cases, even when no formal review meetings are held for either relevant or former relevant young people, the Team Manager of the Leaving Care Service will retain a monitoring role, at six monthly intervals, to check the progress of the Pathway Plan.

If Eligible Young Person moves to 'unregulated' accommodation before the young person turns 18 (i.e. accommodation that is not regulated/inspected by OFSTED), the RMBC will:

  1. Arrange a LAC review within 28 days (or as soon as practicable thereafter) from the time the accommodation is provided; and
  2. Determine at what intervals (not exceeding 6 months) subsequent reviews will be carried out;
  3. LAC Reviews should be brought forward where there is an assessed risk that a crisis may develop in a young person's life, for example:
    • Where a young person has been charged with an offence and there is a possibility of their being sentenced to custody, which will risk losing their accommodation;
    • Where a young person is at risk of being evicted from their accommodation or otherwise threatened with homelessness.

For Relevant and Former Relevant young people their plan may be reviewed out of previously agreed timescales where:

  • Professionals are concerned about the parenting capacity of a 'Relevant' or 'Former Relevant' young person with there being a possibility that their own child may need to be the subject of a multi-agency safeguarding plan;
  • Where there is a significant change;
  • Where a young person requests a review.

Determining suitability of accommodation where it is not regulated

When determining whether unregulated accommodation is suitable for RMBC's young people the allocated workers will have regard to Schedule 2 to the Care Leavers Regulations 2010 and Schedule 6 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010) and includes:

  1. In respect of the accommodation:
    1. The facilities and services provided;
    2. The state of repair;
    3. The safety;
    4. The location;
    5. The support;
    6. The tenancy status; and
    7. The financial commitments involved for the relevant young person and their affordability.
  2. In respect of the Relevant young person:
    1. His or her views about the accommodation;
    2. His or her understanding of their rights and responsibilities in relation to the accommodation; and
    3. His or her understanding of funding arrangements.

It is good practice for a review to be held within 28 days of any change in the care leaver's accommodation.

Note: Bed and Breakfast Accommodation is not considered as suitable accommodation other than in exceptional circumstances.

Where any young person enters custody, pathway planning must continue. The young person must be visited on a regular basis and it is good practice for the first visit to take place within ten working days. The role must not be fulfilled by a YOT worker. The Local Authority must liaise with the YOT or Probation Providers/Offender Managers within the secure estate to support the young person emotionally, practically and financially while in custody.

A review of the Pathway Plan should be carried out at least a month before the young person's release to give sufficient time to plan for his or her resettlement, including identifying suitable accommodation where the young person's placement had to be given up or has been lost and identifying who will collect the young person and the sources of support after his or her release.

In the event of a Relevant or Former Relevant Young Person breaking off contact and/or not engaging with the agreed support and advice being offered, a review of the Pathway Plan may take place by telephone, e-mail or letter, if agreed in advance by the allocated worker and their Team Manager. In these circumstances the Personal Adviser will attempt to negotiate a revised plan that is acceptable to all parties (see Section 8.1, Keeping in Touch).

Where contact is lost, the emphasis of the Pathway Plan Review will switch to record how attempts will be made to re-establish contact and these efforts will be reviewed within the established system.

For those aged 21 and up to 25 the frequency of contact between Personal Advisers and care leavers will vary depending on the nature of each individual's circumstances (see Section 6.1, Pathway Planning for those Aged 21 and up to 25).

Where a Pathway Plan is amended as a result of a review, the allocated worker will amend the Plan. Any necessary approval to the amended financial arrangements will be sought from the Manager of the allocated worker. Once the changes are approved, the allocated worker will send a copy of the amended Plan to the young person and the IRO where appropriate.

8. Personal Advisers

The Personal Adviser acts as the young person's principal source of contact in any matter relating to the Pathway Plan and is accountable for the effective implementation of the Plan when the young person is over 18 (see also Section 8.1, Keeping in Touch). All care leavers (including those who live out of authority) should be made aware of their entitlement to a Personal Adviser up to age 25 and will be offered information as to how to access Rotherham's Local Offer.

The Personal Adviser will ensure the co-ordination of other agencies and individuals identified in the Pathway Plan and 'act as a focal point' to make sure the young person has access to the appropriate services, including those provisions to enable them to develop some financial management capability.

The Personal Adviser should be someone who is best able to engage with the young person and motivate them to take up, and best make use of, the services that are available and provided. In Rotherham there is a designated team of Personal Advisors responsible for supporting care leavers.

Wherever possible Rotherham Leaving Care Service will make every effort to maintain the same person as the Personal Advisor from 18 years from when they were an Eligible or Relevant child. The makes sure the young person is able to build strong, effective and trusting relationships with individual young people.

When allocating a Personal Adviser to an individual young person, consideration must be given to the wishes of the young person and to issues of gender, race, religion, linguistics, disabilities and equal opportunities. The assessment of need and a judgment as to who is most appropriate to fulfil the role of Personal Adviser will influence the choice and allocation of worker.

When a care leaver moves to new accommodation, and the accommodation is unregulated / comes under Section 23B and 24B of the Children Act 1989, the Personal Adviser must see them at that accommodation:

On each visit, the Personal Adviser must consider whether the accommodation continues to be suitable for the young person.

The Personal Adviser must maintain a written record of their contacts with the young person, monitoring the effectiveness of services in preparing the young person for a time when they will move to greater independence or when they cease to be looked after.

The Personal Adviser will take responsibility for initiating the review of the Pathway Plan and for recording its outcomes when the young person is over 18.

Care leavers between the age of 21 and under 25 who, following a discussion with their Personal Adviser, wish to continue to receive support, or those who return later during this period, will have the option to resume support from a Personal Adviser previously responsible for their leaving care support.

Depending on the level of their need, the Personal Adviser's role is expected to reduce over time and become focussed on specific issues with an emphasis on enabling the young adult to take increasingly more responsibility - signposting them to other agencies for information and guidance, including further education and training.

Personal Advisers should apply professional judgement when deciding what level of needs assessment is appropriate.

In all cases where support continues to be offered and provided at this stage, a record should continue to be made be made setting out the issues discussed, and details of any support that the local authority has agreed to provide, so that it can be demonstrated what action they have taken in response to the young adult's request for support.

8.1 Keeping in Touch

It is the role of the Personal Adviser to keep in touch with the young person, and to remain informed as to the young person's progress. However, when the young person becomes 'Former Relevant' this may become more of a challenge and will be dependent on the wishes and needs of the individual care leaver. Should the young person request reduced contact with the service this must be recorded in their pathway plan.

Where this is the case a route back for the young person to seek support in the future should be kept open and communicated, for example by sending a birthday card, appropriate festive greeting, letter or a leaflet on how to get in touch in the future, including a link, or details, as to how to access the Local Offer. Also ensuring that the young person receives any circulated information about services or events in which they may have an interest.

It should be explained to them that they will be supported to overcome any difficulties they may be experiencing. Where appropriate they should be advised they can return to education or training up to age 25 if this is their wish. (All young people who are Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) should be encouraged to take up this offer of support).

As with any other circumstance involving vulnerable people, the local authority will need to assess the balance between the risk of harm to the individual, and the rights and freedom of care leavers to choose their own lives and lifestyles. If the Personal Advisor is concerned about any young person, they will be tenacious and focussed on getting in touch with the young person or through their individual networks to ensure their young person is in receipt of all support and care they need at that point in the life.

There is no requirement to proactively keep in touch with all young people aged over 21 up to age 25 throughout the year, there is a duty which requires local authorities to make care leavers aware that they can continue to request Personal Adviser support when the person turns 21, and on at least an annual basis thereafter.

See: Access to Personal Advisor to 25.

9. Education, Training and Employment

9.1 Planning for Education, Training and Careers

Care leavers must be provided with access to high quality information, advice and guidance to inform their plans in order to progress into continuing education, training or employment. How this will be met should be included in the Pathway Plan. In Rotherham, there is the opportunity to access work experience in a range of settings which will allow young people test their career aspirations and needs. Career planning tools should be used to inform Pathway Plans.

The local authority should make every effort not to disrupt a young person's education during their key stage 4 years, both in terms of their school and care placement unless the circumstances clearly require this (see also Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure, Avoidance of Disruption in Education).

Placement arrangements for young people considering attending university, from their 18th birthday to the point they commence higher education courses, must be addressed and agreed well in advance of their 18th birthday. Plans need to be made for the vacation breaks. The local authority should not move a young person participating in a course of education during the academic year after their 18th birthday. Rotherham offers financial support to young people participating in HE. The details can be found at the Local Offer.

9.2 The 16-19 Bursary Fund and Higher Education Bursary

The 16-19 Bursary Fund helps 16-19 year olds continue in further education, where they might face financial barriers to participation such as the cost of transport, food or equipment. Young people in the defined group include those in care and care leavers. See the Department for Education website - The 16-19 Bursary Fund.

The Higher Education Bursary is for care leavers in higher education. See: financial offer.

10. Young People Resuming Education or Training After 21

The definition of a programme of education or training must be interpreted broadly. For example, this might include options such as: completion of a basic skills course, so that the young person has the numeracy and literacy skills needed to compete in the jobs market; take up of a course of further education; take up of a university place; support to enable the young person to complete a recognised postgraduate qualification; or participation in vocational training and apprenticeships.

Care leavers will need support and guidance to help them think about and plan their return to education or training, consider all aspects such as financial support and the impact on their housing or benefits.

Where a care leaver requests this support, an assessment should be made to assess the appropriateness of the education or training course and how it will help them to achieve their ambitions. The Personal Adviser should meet with the care leaver and, based on the assessment of their needs and the suitability of the course, update the Pathway Plan. The plan must have a specific focus on the support that the care leaver will need to be able to meet the education or training goals agreed. The plan should reflect the agreed educational outcomes for the young person and the type of support the young person will require. This assessment should draw on the information about the young person's skills and capabilities which will have been set out in Pathway Plans up to age 21. The extent of practical and financial assistance provided will depend on the assessment of the young person's needs and will reflect the type of course, whether it is full or part time and the young person's existing income.

11. Where Care Leavers Live or Move to a Different Local Authority Area

Where a care leaver resides in a different local authority area, Rotherham will make sure that young person receives the same level of service they would receive if they remained in Rotherham. This can mean the Personal Advisor will visit more frequently to support the young person, or it can mean that we will arrange for a Rotherham Care Leaver to access support from that authority's Leaving Care Team.

All care leavers should be advised on how to access local care leavers' services if they move to a different local authority area and need assistance. The advice provided should be in written form.

12. Staying Put

A Staying Put arrangement is where a young person who has been living in foster care remains in the former foster home after the age of 18.

For further information see the Staying Put Procedure.

13. Access to Records

Over the course of their lifetime, people who have spent all or part of their childhood and adolescence in local authority care may want to access information about this period in their lives. There can be a range of reasons why people who have left care want to do this, including curiosity about why they came into care; what happened and when; a need to make sense of difficult memories and life events; to clarify disparate explanations; a desire to trace family members; seeking medical information in reference to hereditary illness/disease and also to obtain photos/certificates. Click here for information as to how to to complete a 'subject access request'.

14. Qualifying Young People

Aim

To offer clarification regarding access to entitlements from Leaving Care where a child/young person is defined as a 'Qualifying Young Person'.

Purpose

Entitlement to Leaving Care support is offered to young people where there has been significant input from the LA as a result of the child/young people being looked after for a significant period of time.

Entitlements to Leaving Care services taper the longer the child/young person has been out of LA care and has been settled back into accommodation with a person with PR or where there is a special guardianship order has been. The assumption being that the longer a child has been settled with people who are legally responsible for them by way of PR/SGO, then the responsibilities of the LA in terms of Leaving Care diminish accordingly.

Categories

There are 4 categories of entitlement to Leaving Care support as defined in legislation and guidance. These are:

Eligible (young people aged 16 and over and where they are looked after and have been for a period of 13 weeks after their 14th birthday and where some or all of this time is on or after their 16th birthday).

Relevant (young people aged over 16 but under 18 who were an eligible child but who then returned home to the person with parental responsibility. This would not include young people where the LA continues to share PR. An example would be young people remanded to custody for over 13 weeks as a s.20 Children Act 89 young person and then returns home on discharge.

Former Relevant (young people aged over 18 who were immediately prior to turning 18 defined as either a relevant or eligible young person).

Qualifying – this is the focus of this policy.

Definitions

A young person can be regarded as a 'qualifying young person' under the terms of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 when:

  1. Aged at least 16 but is under 21;
  2. With respect to whom a special guardianship order is in force (or was in force when they reached 18) and was looked after immediately before the making of that order; or
  3. At any time after reaching the age of 16 but while he was still a child was, but is no longer, looked after, accommodated or fostered.

Understanding the categories of entitlement:

Qualifying young people tend to be those young people who have spent a period of time in the LA and returned home to the person with Parental Responsibility for at least 6 months prior to their 18th birthday. (In terms of definition and therefore entitlement this would see the young person moving from relevant status to qualifying).

Qualifying young people can also be young people who have spent less time in care after their 16th birthday and who have returned home.

Or the young person is made subject to a special guardianship order.

In each circumstance it is necessary to complete an assessment to determine need and where this need can best be met.

Relevant to Qualifying:

Prior to this decision being made, a full needs assessment should be completed to consider whether the young person is settled and secure in these arrangements and where full entitlement will not be necessary. In this arrangement it makes sense to assess, determine the stability and where appropriate the LA to step back.

Once this assessment has been completed and all parties are in agreement the young person can become a qualifying young person, this young person will be able to access the service for:

  • Befriending/advice and assistance;
  • Can access some minimal financial support should they seek to attend university.

Should the young person require additional support after receiving notification of their qualifying status they can, prior to 18, request an assessment to determine whether any additional support can be offered. This assessment would be via a Child and Family Assessment to determine how best to support the young person.

Should a young person after their 18th birthday require any additional support the Leaving Care Service can offer advice and guidance to the young person to support access to universal services. As part of this support it may also be necessary to develop a time limited pathway plan with focussed support for young people. As part of this assessment it may be possible of offer some limited access to Leaving Care Entitlements. However this will be based on individual circumstances and needs assessment.

Specific circumstances

Special Guardianship Orders and Leaving Care Support

Aim

To offer clarification regarding access to entitlements from Leaving Care where a child/young person has been made subject to a Special Guardianship Order.

Purpose

Leaving Care legislation alongside guidance supporting LAs make and maintain special guardianship arrangements determines how the LA supports children and young people in special guardianship arrangements.

The responsibilities for determining and offering these elements fall across a number of different services and teams. As such it is important that there is a consistent message to families and young people as to what support they will receive and under what circumstances/framework.

Special Guardianship

Special Guardianship was devised as a further means to secure permanence for children and young people while maintaining links with birth family. Seen as an intermediate step between being a looked after child and adoption it enabled children and young people to feel confident and secure in their care arrangements while losing the intrusion of the LA.

Leaving Care

Leaving Care support and entitlements have developed since original legislation in 2000.

Entitlement to Leaving Care support is offered to young people where there has been significant input from the LA as a result of the child/young people being looked after for a significant period of time.

Key to entitlement is the length of time a young person has been in the care of the local authority and the plans for the young person when they leave care. For example if the young person has been looked after for 13 weeks, after their 14th birthday and where some or all of this time has been on or after their 16th birthday and they remain in care to their 18th birthday the young person would have full entitlement to leaving care support.

However should the young person return to the person with PR at least 6 months before their 18th birthday then their entitlement to Leaving Care Service reduces. This also occurs where the young person is made subject to a special guardianship order and where immediately prior to this order the child/young person was looked after.

The assumption within these circumstances is that the longer a child has been settled with people who are legally responsible for them by way of Parental Responsibility /SGO; responsibilities of the LA in terms of Leaving Care support diminish accordingly.

Young Person

Where a child was immediately looked after prior to a Special Guardianship Order being made this group of children can be viewed as 'Qualifying Young People as defined by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.' This category of entitlement is limited to the following:

Where the young person is 16 and no older than 21 years of age:

  • Ability to attend the LA where they were previously looked after to access advice and assistance; and
  • Access to finances to support their attendance at University by funding Vacation Accommodation.

Should any support over and above this offer be required the LA will have to negotiate with carers and would be recorded separately on a Special Guardian Support Plan in advance of the arrangement being made.

Special Guardianship Support Plan

Where the LA is in discussion with potential special guardians and these discussions include future financial and practical support, there is no automatic entitlement to full Leaving Care support.

During these negotiations social workers must be clear in both their discussions and in the support plans that any offer to young people post 18 is above and beyond the responsibilities the LA has to young people defined as Qualifying Young People in The Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations Volume 3: planning transition to adulthood for care leavers and Regulation 22 of the Special Guardianship Regulations 2017.

As a result social workers must be clear in their planning and offers to special guardians in the following manner and in relation to Leaving Care support.

LA can, under s.24A offer advice and assistance to young people – any financial support tends to be to support participation at University and is limited to vacation accommodation.

Any additional support must be acknowledged as such.

Social workers must not offer as a blanket offer 'entitlement to Leaving Care Service' as this is not correct nor, in many instances, will it be appropriate.

Social workers should not use overarching phrasing such as the 'young person will be entitled to Leaving Care Support,' or young person will be entitled to Leaving Care Services.'

Additional support required for young people into adulthood should be discussed and negotiated separately.

The Leaving Care Service can be involved in the discussions with Special Guardians as to the support available from the service as a Qualifying Young Person.

Special Guardians with the young person can be provided with information as to the local offer for care leavers with their attention pointed to the offer for Qualifying young people.

At 16 the Special Guardianship Team should forward a letter to the young person to whom to Special Guardianship Order relates outlining their entitlements to Leaving Care Support. Contact details for the Leaving Care Service can be added to this letter.

At the same time the following details should be shared with the Leaving Care Service:

  • Name of young person;
  • Age;
  • Address;
  • Name of Special Guardians;
  • Age at which order was made;
  • Special Guardianship Support Plan.

The Leaving Care Service will make a note of this information and will write to the young person at least quarterly reminding them of our commitment to them as a result of their status as a qualifying young person.

Personal Advisor role in Child Protection Arrangements

Aim

To offer clarification to personal advisors, social workers, independent reviewing officers and managers as to the role, purpose and function of personal advisors when the young people they work with become involved in arrangements for child protection/ safeguarding.

Purpose

The role of the personal advisor is to support, advise and guide young people through the difficult transition point at 18 and through to their 21st birthday or up to 25 at the young person's request.

This role is successful for young people because young people feel safe in the relationship and understand the personal advisor to be their support and trusted adult who will help them navigate the expectations and tasks associated with growing into adulthood.

Some young people the personal advisors work with, are parents and have babies and small children. Some of these babies and small children are known to safeguarding services and therefore associated processes.

The personal advisor must work with the young person to complete their pathway plan every 6 months or sooner if there has been a significant change. The pathway plan must acknowledge and comment on the young person's role as parent.

This plan identifies the tasks the young person, personal advisor, and any other interested party are required to complete to support the young people deal with what is happening to them and to support them in reaching their potential over the coming months and years.

The personal advisors like any professional working with children and young people have a responsibility to promote and safeguard the welfare of children and young people.

This can create tensions between the role of the personal advisor to build, support and advocate for the young person and the responsibility to promote and safeguard children and young people.

This guidance note will offer clarification for workers when operating in this field so all parties are clear in their expectations and role when supporting care leavers who are parents.

Role of personal advisors to care leavers where there is a baby/child subject to safeguarding arrangements

Raising Concerns

Personal advisors can be the first point of contact for young people disclosing they are to become parents.

Personal advisors can undertake preliminary investigations to determine any immediate concerns for the new family.

Personal advisors will also share any concerns they have about the pregnancy and future child care responsibilities with MASH if they believe a baby or a child of any care leaver to be at risk.

Personal advisors will talk to the young people about their worries for them and the child and will explain to them their concerns prior to any referral being made unless doing so would place baby or child at further risk.

Progress to Initial Conference

Any discussion about the outcome of any investigation has to be undertaken by the allocated social worker for the child or baby.

The personal advisor can be present to support the young person during this conversation if this is considered supportive for the young person.

The personal advisor will not seek to advise the young person on the safeguarding process as this is not their area of expertise. However the personal advisor can support the young person in asking questions of the allocated social worker to support understanding.

Conference

It is an expectation of Children's Services in Rotherham that Personal Advisors attend both Initial and Review Child Protection Conferences.

It is important young people are prepared for their attendance at Initial and Review Child Protection Conference. The allocated social worker for the child will be expected to do this. The personal advisor can be present for this discussion to support the young person's understanding.

Prior to conference the chair of the conference will spend time with the young person, social worker and personal advisor. The purpose of this conversation will be to outline the role of each person in the child protection process so all parties are clear as to expectations and boundaries.

It is an expectation that the Personal Advisor will offer a view as to whether the baby/child requires a child protection plan. This is as any other professional that is a part of conference.

The personal advisor will not offer a view as to whether the baby/child should be taken to PLO panel for discussion about possible care proceedings.

It is important the personal advisor has discussions with the young person prior to going in to conference about the expectations placed on them as personal advisors. It is imperative the young person understands and appreciates the views of the personal advisor prior to conference in relation to their view of the young person's parenting.

The personal advisor can support the young people in sharing their views at conference. However if there are difficulties or this becomes inappropriate Rotherham will identify an advocate to support the young person at conference to share their views.

Core Group

Personal advisors can be members of core group.

The role of personal advisors at core group is to offer updates as to the progress of care leavers in relation to their pathway plans and day to day challenges.

They are able to share their observations regarding care of baby as expected of any professional in attendance.

The allocated social worker will be responsible for organising, recording and chairing core groups.

The allocated social worker will be responsible for having conversations with the young parent if there are issues or difficulties in completing tasks associated with the child protection plan.

The allocated social worker will be responsible for having difficult conversations with the young person if the ongoing assessment determines LA seeks to initiate PLO.

Personal advisor can attend these discussions to support the young person to understand the conversations and make sure the allocated social worker is being clear, concise and fair in the information shared.

It is not the personal advisor's role to be involved or engaged in activities associated with moving baby or child from parent to another address, whether that be due to the baby/child becoming accommodated or moving to a member of the young person's network.

Recording and sharing information

Personal advisors will share any concerning information about the young person's ongoing capacity to parent and safeguard the welfare of their child.

Personal advisors will let the young person know they are sharing this information, unless to do so would place the baby/child at greater risk.

Personal advisors will record their concerns on both the baby/child and young person's file.

Personal advisors will also record any positive observations about the care of the baby/child on both young person and their child's file.

Personal advisors will notify the allocated social worker of any additions made to the young person or baby/child's file so they are kept updated.

Personal advisors will need to discuss with the young people the extent to which their child or parenting is explored in their pathway plan. It is expected that there will need to be some exploration of this because becoming a parent is a significant factor when developing a plan aimed at preparing a young person for adulthood.

Tasks within the plan should reflect in part the expectations of the child protection plan which are focussed on the young person's ability to manage themselves and their child.

Pathway plan can then be reviewed in line with any Review Child Protection Conference so all plans for the young person and the baby/child are consistent.

The allocated social worker will notify the personal advisor of any additions made to the young person or baby/child's file so they are kept updated.

Both allocated social worker and personal advisor will need to be clear with each other as to the significance of any observations made.

If there are any issues/difficulties in either party feeling heard, managers to be informed.

Personal advisors will be supported by their supervisors and team manager to explore how difficult conversations with young people can take place. This will be done individually in supervision or as part of reflective practice sessions.

Issues/Disputes

Any issues or difficulties when working together in this arena must be shared with respective managers who will then seek to address and resolve.

tri.x procedures